London

Handyman who stole Churchill speech jailed

A handyman who stole £36,000 of manuscripts by famous literary figures has been jailed for 30 months.

Tyrone Somers, who worked for a rare manuscripts specialist, stole the documents when he was entrusted with keys to his boss's west London home.

Somers, 41, who suffers from bipolar disorder, handed himself in to police stating a prison sentence would help solve his psychological problems.

One of the manuscripts was a speech by Sir Winston Churchill, the court heard.

Somers' boss, Rick Gekoski, had asked him to do some work on the weekend of 23 to 24 July, when he would be away from his home in Bathurst Mews.

Prosecutor Abigail White told Southwark Crown Court: "On the Monday, Mr Gekoski discovered a large number of highly valuable manuscripts and documents had been stolen from his house."

'Cry for help'

Among these "extremely valuable items" were documents by Kingsley Amis, a speech by wartime prime minister Churchill, typed letters and Christmas cards by poet T.S Eliot and a typed letter by poet Ted Hughes.

The court heard that on 29 July, Somers emailed a social worker and confessed to his crimes.

Somers eventually handed himself in at Belgravia police station, bringing the documents with him.

Somers told police he had had psychological problems and had been advised that going to prison would solve them, the court heard.

Ms White told the court: "He said he took the book of manuscripts because he knew it would extend his prison sentence."

Somers, of Clarence Avenue in south west London, also stole a laptop, which he sold, and £100 in cash as well as 31 manuscripts.

In mitigation his lawyer, Julia Farrant, said Somers had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity and had returned "the most valuable items in terms of their financial value and cultural heritage".

She said: "This was a cry for help from someone struggling."

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